Living in the illusion

Note:  I allowed the following to flow through me this morning.  I use to write this stuff on paper and in my journals in the past.   They are buried away in boxes (so is the life of a military spouse).  Today it came out on computer.  It is incredibly scary and vulnerable to share what comes through me at times like this.  This is a cathartic blog.   Having caught up on my morning World news, I  was balling.  From violent shootings in the US, villages being raped and torn to pieces in the name of dogma, starvation and lack of fresh water in the Middle East, and millions of people being displaced around the globe due to catastrophic weather patterns…it felt, and feels, too much.  It makes me so angry, so sad and then when I just let it out, cry until I can barely breathe, I begin to hear a calming voice that keeps me focused on something higher than myself.  Honestly, to me it feels like my version of “God” trying to talk me off the roof, bring more love into my life, and to make sense of all the suffering.  

To share the following is terrifying.  However, in the last year something shifted in me.   I use to be more reserved and afraid of what others thought of me.  Now, if something terrifies me, I say “fuck this shit” (meaning the fear) and I do it.  This FTS attitude, has been incredibly healing for me and for many others who have written to me encouraging me to keep up the online presence, or writing, or authentic shares.  So yes, I’m sharing the following below, unedited.  I’m not even sure if it makes sense. Maybe there will be something in it.  Maybe not.  But at least I feel better now that it’s out than keeping it in stuffed in some corner of my crying heart.  

I use to tell my mom as a child, “If I can positively impact the life of one person before I die, then I will have lived a fulfilled life.”  She reminds me that I have already done this.  I now realize I’m upping my own game.  From here on out it is my heart’s and life’s mission to positively impact the life (i.e. reduce suffering) of as many people on this planet as possible, including myself. My own experiences and past will not control me.  I will use them as tools for my own growth so I may shower as many people on this planet with love and aloha as possible. 

With this said, I’m giving you a huge hug right now. No, even bigger than you imagined.  I love you!
H.

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There is a saying in Chinese medicine, “When treating a person, above all you must treat the Spirit first.”  It sounds woo-woo, sounds out there but it is Truth.

The biggest cause of fear in our World is our disconnection being talked about as our “differences.”  The biggest cause of illness and dis-ease is STRESS from this disconnection.  No, that is not empirically researched, that is straight up living, learning, and dedicated observation in trying to understand life.  This country, our world, our communities and our families are divided not by a real division but an ILLUSION of a division that stems from a lack of connection with their True Nature, their Spirit, and a belief that different means bad or wrong..  The only Truth’s I know are: everything is always changing, death will happen, and we are already whole.  However, most people choose to live out and live in their illusion of their lack of wholeness.

The Founders of the US Constitution, pure geniuses imo, were correct when they said, “we were all created equal.”  Truth.  However, the interpretation that we all have equality from that moment forward is an interpretation.  It is false and another illusion to believe that each person born into this world is equal.  The only equality that exists is the unity of a whole being that is uniquely different from all the other 7 billion other people on this planet.  What is true is that each person on this planet is uniquely there own and whole just as they are.  Nothing else is equal.  Rather than push a false narrative that we are created, born, and live equally is just false.  What makes this human existence truly our own, divine, and unique is that from the point forward after creation (when the sperm meets the egg) a whole host of factors beyond our control and within our control begin acting on us and it is how we respond consciously, physically, and unconsciously that make each of us uniquely our own person.   Created equal and get to live equal are NOT and will never be the same human experience.   We are different and we need our differences in order to be uniquely our own self.  But there exists an illusion that differences equal bad and since we do not want to support the “bad” we disconnect.  The illusion exists that because you are different, we cannot connect, or share similar experiences, bond, or have discussions regarding our differences.  The illusion is just that, a false veil.  Differences are good.  Differences are what makes sushi, sushi and lasagne, lasagne.  What gets us in trouble, what divides us, what makes us want to be right over the idea of being free is when we begin to live disconnected or separate ourselves from things that are different than us or our beliefs. Difference’s exist.  Disconnection exist.  But differences does not have to mean disconnection.  Disconnection will always lead to suffering…as every traditional healing method that has survived the test of time all say…disconnection from our Spirit brings about death.

What I see, what I feel, what I witness, what I have learned every time I fear and work with people in a studio or clinic setting is that people are living in their illusion of separateness and disconnection rather than allowing themselves to live in connection with self, others, nature, and hence the world around them.  And I don’t care how religious you are, how many times you pray or meditate or do a sun salutation, religion is not a deep connection with your higher self and your version of God, Universe, Love, Oneness..  It might mean a connection but if it is, than you’re not offended by the above statement because you know you’re connection is Divine and doesn’t need labels.  Connection is about something deeper than a weekend pot-luck and group or affiliation or how far back you can bend.  Connection takes you deeper to a place that is about walking your talk and living your message.

Perhaps if we all asked ourselves these questions everyday we would know if we were living connected or in the illusion that disconnection.

Do you care about how you treat yourself, and what you say to yourself in the silence moments when the lights are out and you’re about to go to bed, when someone is attacking you physically, emotionally, or mentally?

Do you care about how you treat others when they are right in front of you but more importantly when they are not in front of you?

Do you care about how you treat Nature, the very Earth that gives you all your sustenance (food, water, sources for shelter, cars, and technology).

Are you walking your talk?

Do you care more about being right or free?

Have you sat with your own fears and really analyzed them?  Have you sat with your past? Your trauma? Your experiences?  Those skeletons in your closet and really allowed yourself to heal and get help?  Or did you disconnect with that part of yourself and push it aside.  Whether you were raped or are the rapist, the child being hit or the one hitting both are whole people just responding and protecting their illusion to fit what they thought was their reality, what was real, what right, what was needed to stay “safe” or in “control.”  But surprise, you are whole (always have an always will be) and it, all that stuff, your past, your experiences, are still with you, just stuffed away in some corner of your consciousness, heart, and tissues persistently trying to have a life of its own until one day you have a break down and it can finally release itself.  It doesn’t mean you’re broken.   It doesn’t mean you’re bad.  We are just Spirits having a human experience and the rules are not so black and white.

We are trained from a very young age to protect ourselves, and figure out what is “right” and what is “wrong.”  As we get older though, we have the ability to think for ourselves and to wake up to the illusion.  Wake up to the fact that you’re living in an illusion that you choose to live in or live out.  If you’re living to be “right” than you are not free and you’ve pushed your Soul aside in favor of your mind’s ego, little brain, cultural norms, or safety, literally the caveman/cavewoman aspect of yourself.  And that’s fine if you want to live that way.  Honestly, the majority of our planet has to live that way because of safety and needs based living (think Maslow’s hierarchy here).  But if you’re reading this, if you are part of the population that gets to live life outside of your minimum and basic needs of food, shelter, water, and physical/mental safety then it’s time to wake up.  You ask yourself why the World looks the way it does?  It’s because the people who have the ability to wake up AREN’T.  They are choosing to be RIGHT over FREE.  They are choosing to hold on to an illusion that our differences are somehow bad, wrong, ugly, or unsafe and disconnection is the solution.   It’s time to DISCONNECT with the illusion and CONNECT with your Spirit, your true nature under all the veils you, your family, your culture has placed on you.  It’s time to wake up.  Enough is enough.  Wake up.  Wake up.  Take responsibility for YOUR life, for your choices, for your words, your actions, your thoughts and reconnect with what matters most…your connection to your Spirit, that silent voice within that is trying to be FREE. Stop stuffing that voice away and needing to be RIGHT.

When was the last time you really looked into someone’s eyes?  Not an IG feed eyes or a FB feed eyes but the eyes of your neighbor?  The stranger walking past you?  The person making you your favorite $5 coffee drink?  And people get all up in arms about people who cover their hair, or wear veils, or wear booty shorts but does anyone look in the eyes anymore?  This is what I’m talking about.  I’m guilty of it too but when I catch these things in myself I really want to make a difference and take the steps to make a change within myself.  This doesn’t make me better or worst, maybe a little self-centered, but I’ll take it.  My form of self-centered allows me to feel good about who I am and give my love openly despite your color, race, cultural background, or disease.

Reconnect to your Spirit and you will find at first that it feels like your life is falling apart.  It is, because if you want to live connected with Spirit with your True Self than you can’t continue to live the same way you have been in fear, illusion, and disconnection.  But not all things that fall apart are broken.  Things falling apart is the illusion of your separateness and disconnection breaking apart allowing your life to reflect something more connected. Will it feel like you’ve lost control? YES, 100% but that’s the point.  When you try and control your life, that being “right” is better than being free, you have to build up a lot, A LOT, A LOT of barriers and walls to maintain that disconnect and way of life.  However, the more you continue to allow yourself to be connected with your Spirit you will begin to see your life take shape in ways that feel easier and more alive, and things you once would have dismissed as weird or from the twilight zone are now signs and serendipitous messages.   The differences won’t seem so scary anymore and the fear based living will slowly subside.

So yes, treat the Spirit first, not last.  Treating the Spirit is treating the body and the mind.  It’s all connected.  Disconnect with the illusion that different is bad or wrong.  Reconnect with your breath.  Reconnect. with Nature.  Nature has always healed, always will heal, and will always continue to heal for those who want to reduce suffering.  So go outside.  Take a breath of fresh air.  Put your feet in the dirt.  Get dirty. Worry less and embrace all of it as if it were your own child.

 

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Metta “Loving Kindness” Meditation

This week on my YouTube channel Yoga with Haunani I shared the Metta Meditation, also known as the Loving Kindness Meditation.  While I do not know the whole history of this meditation, I do know it works.  I can’t even remember who I learned it from or where I was when this meditation practice was taught to me.  All I know is that it stuck with me and I have been using it for several years.  This was my go-to meditation practice when I taught yoga to Marines and Sailors at the Naval Hospital.  One of my favorite memories of sharing this meditation is having a very young Marine who was clearly upset before class, finish this meditation, open his eyes and say out loud as he was gently nodding his head, “damn, that really worked.”

In many ways this meditation practice is really a blessing.  You bless yourself, another, your community or family, and then all beings everywhere.  It’s a simple practice, easy to follow, and effective. I’m writing the words out in this blog so you can follow along or print it out as needed until you have it memorized.

When repeating the phrases you can say it out loud, whisper, or repeat them silently to yourself.  A longer version of this meditation is to say the four lines out loud, then repeat at a whisper, and then silently to yourself.  Each time you say a line, take a moment to breathe in the statement and just witness what arises.

Prepping for the meditation:

  • Print a copy of the Metta Meditation.
  • Find a comfortable place to sit for this meditation
  • Remove yourself from distractions (i.e. phones, computers, electronics)
  • Connect with your breath
  • Give yourself permission to let go of your day, or your plans, to just focus on the practice

The first round of the meditation is directed at yourself.  This comes back to the idea that you must take care of yourself before you can truly care for another.  Or, you must love yourself before you can truly love another.  The first round is for you to reconnect with your heart.

MAY I BE HAPPY.
MAY I BE WELL.
MAY I BE SAFE.
MAY I BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The second round is dedicated to another.  At first, I recommend you choose someone who you are grateful for, who cares for you, is a mentor, or is an inspiration in your life. With them in mind and in your heart, repeat:

MAY YOU BE HAPPY.
MAY YOU BE WELL.
MAY YOU BE SAFE.
MAY YOU BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Remember to give yourself time to breathe in each statement.

The third round is dedicated to your family (blood or soul), your community, or a group of people you entrust.  Keeping them in mind, repeat:

MAY WE ALL BE HAPPY.
MAY WE ALL BE WELL.
MAY WE ALL BE SAFE.
MAY WE ALL BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

The final round is dedicated to all beings everywhere.  You might imagine the World, a sea of people, or a symbol or concept that weaves us all together.  Keeping this in mind, repeat:

MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE WELL.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE SAFE.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE PEACEFUL AND AT EASE.

Take time at the end of the practice to sit and be mindful.  Notice how you feel at the end of the practice compared to at the beginning.

When you become familiar with this practice you can also use it as a powerful healing tool.  In the second and third rounds, you can bring to mind someone or group of people who has hurt you, made you angry, frustrated, or upset.  By keeping that person or group in mind, you can rebuild a sense of oneness or connection between the frayed or fraying relationship.  Using the Metta meditation in this way may help to soften the hard edges of emotions and feelings you once had toward that person or group of people.

As in all meditation practices, allow yourself to be present and witness what arises. Try to avoid judging your thoughts or having expectations of how you’re suppose to feel or be during and after this practice. The Metta Meditation is powerful in that it allows the heart’s true nature to arise and release what it has been harboring at the conscious and unconscious levels.

Be kind to yourself and just allow this words to help you reconnect with yourself, someone you love, your community, and the World.

Healthy Travel Tips

Traveling, whether for work or play, can be fun aaaaand incredibly taxing on the body and mind.  The key for maintaining optimal health, vibrant energy and regular digestion is to prepare the body for travel before your actual flight or driving day.  I begin eating a Vata balancing diet the week before I travel.  See the attached sheet for food recommendations.  For many, the stress begins before you even have to deal with crowds at the airport or traffic on the highway.  By the time your trip is over your body has tried to keep up with the stressful demands of travel and then it takes another week once you’ve returned to feel like you’re back in your “normal” home routine.  No wander so many people love the idea of travel but find it incredibly taxing on their body and mind.  Follow these few simple tricks to make your your travels less stressful and more fulfilling for body, mind and spirit.

PREPARATION – the more you prepare, the less stress you have the day of travel.

  • Begin eating a Vata balancing diet the week before you travel.
  • Reduce pre-travel stress by planning ahead.  Make a list of all the things you think you need 5 days before your departure date. Go shopping if you need anything. 2-3 days before, lie everything out.  Cut back on the amount of clothes or add where you forgot something (i.e. comfortable clothes for the hotel room or work out clothes).  See Haunani’s healthy travel essentials packing list below.
  • Print the Vata balancing diet and put it with your carry-on bag.
  • Try to get regular exercise, at least 30 min/day prior to leaving.
  • Prepare your techy gadgets for travel: Download any software, movies, books you will want for your trip.
  • If you love practicing yoga, do a google search of yoga studios in your destination.  Print their schedule or save on your desktop/favorites.

THE DAY BEFORE YOU LEAVE – again, it’s about planning and preparing.

  • Pack your bags and/or suitcase (including carry-ons) the day/night before you leave.
  • Double-check your check list as you pack.
  • Your carry-on should include: all the chargers your need, essential oils, chia seeds, book/reader, laptop/paper & pen, healthy quick snack(s) for the travel, scarf.
  • Print 2 copies of your itinerary and your boarding passes.  Place one itinerary in your carry-on, the other in your luggage.
  • Empty out your purse or wallet and only take the ID and Credit cards you’ll use. Nothing like losing your wallet while you’re traveling and coming home to replace ALL the cards, saving cards, ID’s, etc that you didn’t even need while you were traveling.
  • Get Cash (just in case someone doesn’t take a card).  Better safe than sorry.
  • Make yourself a healthy snack to take with you to the airport or car ride including your favorite calming tea, like chamomile, mint, Tazo “Passion,” or Yogi “relax”, or “Smooth move” if you get constipated.
  • Examples:  mixed nuts.  1 apple.  1 orange.  protein powder in a shaker (do not fill with liquid).  slices of swiss cheese and rice crackers.

DURING YOUR TRAVELS (planes, trains and automobiles) – It’s go with the flow time!

Meditating at the airport doesn't have to look like this.  Just sit in a chair, or floor, with the eyes closed hands resting on your lap and begin to watch your breath.

Meditating at the airport doesn’t have to look like this. Just sit in a chair, or floor, with your eyes closed, hands resting on your lap and begin to watch your breath.

  • Go with the flow.  Now you’re in the flow and most of the travel details are out of your control.  Avoid getting overly stressed, emotional or angry.  Perfect time to practice “letting go” and “gratitude.”  Check out my blog Breathe. Connect. Be titled “Gratitude as an Act of Devotion”  to hear how my mom turned her seemingly horrible flight experience into a wonderful trip with free upgrades.
  • Drink WARM or HOT liquids as much as possible.  Drink warm water and tea every so often.
  • Stay warm.  Ever get chilled on the plane?  This coupled with the stress of travel = a cold waiting to happen at your destination sight.  Always travel in layers.
  • If you tend to get constipated when you travel, drink more warm water and tea and AVOID alcohol, caffeine and ice drinks/foods.
  • Take all the seated time to meditate, practice breathing exercises/pranayama and even maybe get some gentle yoga stretches in at the terminal.
  • Take the stairs!  Avoid elevators and escalators if you can.
  • During the flight or long car ride, take about 5-10 minutes, for every 2 hours of sitting to flex and relax different muscles of the body, especially the legs, hips, glutes and abdominals.  Again, another great time to meditate at 35,000 feet…talk about levitating!

AT YOUR DESTINATION – Time to enjoy!

  • Continue eating a Vata Balancing diet as much as possible while you’re traveling.
  • Go with the Flow.  Refer to “During your travels”
  • Exercise 20-30 minutes every day.  A brisk walk around the hotel parking lot will make a huge difference regardless how silly you look.  Better yet, do yoga or a quick calisthenics routine in your room. Use the hotel stairs/emergency stairs to get a quick cardio workout.
  • Wake up 20-30 minutes earlier to get a light stretch and meditation to start your day.
  • Reduce stress by waking up earlier or going to bed so you can wake up early.
  • Attitude of gratitude.  Today, we take traveling, work and family for granted (most of the time).  Recognize how lucky you are to be seeing a new part of the world, meeting new people (even if you don’t get along) and cherish the experience of discovering more about the world you live in.
  • Again, dress in layers and keep your temperature comfortable.  Especially if you’ll be sharing conference rooms with others, the temperature will always fluctuate to meet the needs of a variety of people.  Be prepared to stay warm or remove layers.

So there you have it, my travel tips on how to stay healthy and happy while you travel.  Life is full of unexpected turbulence (yes, pun intended), especially when we travel.  Travel is the best time to practice patience, going with the flow and gratitude.  May your next trip be filled with more smiles than grimaces and healthy digestion!

What’s in Haunani’s bag every trip? 

Haunani’s Healthy Travel Essentials

  • Herbal tea (box or a few teabags in a plastic baggie)
    • Here are some I recommend
      • Any tea box that says “Relax,” “Calm”, “Meditate.”
      • Tazo “Passion”
      • Yogi “Smooth move” if you get constipated
      • Chamomile
  • Calming essential oil.  I typically only travel with one.  I choose the one that smells the best to me at the time: lavendar, “clarity,” “calming,” bergamot, rose, gardenia, sandalwood.
  • Chia seeds – a must have for keeping your digestion regular.  I add 1 Tablespoon of chia seeds to hot water during the flight and I’ll do the same that same night before I go to bed.
  • Scarf/wrap or beanie/ski cap to stay warm on the plane
  • Journal/Paper & Pen or laptop.  At 35,000 feet, I typically get incredibly creative.  Rather than try to keep things in my head for later, I write them down immediately.  I’ve written entire business plans on trips and have come up with many inventions.  Now if I could only find someone to fund those ideas.
  • A good book or reader with books you’ve been wanting to read but didn’t have the time for.  Now you do.

Optional de-stress items:

  • incense (1-2 sticks) – careful if you get a non-smoking room
  • 1 candle – careful if you’re traveling to hot weather, you don’t want your candle to melt on your stuff.
  • yoga mat – there are several travel yoga mats on the market or even yogi toes.  I no longer travel with a mat and choose to just use a hotel towel or find a grassy space where I can find one.  In the end, mat or no mat, I don’t let it stop me from practicing.

Six Tastes of Ayurveda

At the age of five, maybe even earlier, I was often plagued by stomach aches.  It mostly happened after I ate.  My parents, relatively western in their ways, did what any suburban middle-class parents would do, they took me to my pediatrician.  I loved my Pediatrician.  She was untouchable to me.  It was so cool when she used a tongue depressor that was individually wrapped.  I loved the pink syrup she gave me when I had sore throats and I loved looking through the drawers in my waiting room.  Unfortunately, despite her coolness factor, my stomach aches continued.  There was no definite diagnosis and only some mention after an allergy test that I might be lactose intolerant.  The tiny purple pill which was brand spanking new on the market (now one of Pharmaceuticals top sellers Prillosac) didn’t even help.  I did do a little bit better with lactose free milk but ice cream, cheese, pizza, all those yummy kids foods always made me sick and were out of the question.

In my teens, my stomach aches got worst and worst.  After a trip to France, where I had very little stomach issues even eating their stinky cheese, I returned stateside with horrible cramping stomach aches.  After several mildly invasive tests, I was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  They told me it was a newer diagnosis that was just being used.   The doctor told me, “Eat what you can and avoid the things that give you an upset stomach.”  Duuuuuuuuhhhh!  That’s what I was doing.  Eating rice and apple juice.  Do you think I would have spent my time coming to you if I didn’t already know that?!  I was frustrated.

About the same time, my mom had picked-up a book from a garage sale and gave it to me saying, “I think this is for you.”  The title was Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley.  I had nooooooo idea what yoga or Ayurveda was (neither did my mom) but when I randomly opened it up, I saw charts of foods.  With a quick scan I discovered a book that discussed food as medicine.  I began reading hastily.  Within days I was learning that people had different body constitutions and foods reacted differently to different people.  This all made perfect sense to me.  It was like a lightbulb turned-on, one that was familiar yet so new.  I felt like I finally found hope for reducing my stomach upset.  That was the beginning with my love affair with Ayurveda.  I still had no idea what yoga was and it would be another three years before I took my first asana yoga class.

Ayurveda is a complete system of medicine.  Where biomedicine treats diseases with biomedical pharmaceuticals and surgery, Ayurveda prefers to use food, spices, lifestyle modifications, exercise, meditation, aromatherapy, mantra, manual therapies like massage and herbal formulas, or surgery in severe illness or disease.  Ayurveda’s focus is on establishing and maintaining health and wellness in order to prevent disease.

Hippocrates Food MedicineWhile many people believe Hippocrates coined the term “food is medicine,” this is actually an old Ayurveda saying that dates back thousands of years prior to Hippocrates.  Food is such a key component to health and wellness because we eat several times a day.  Ayurveda has dissected food to a science.  The reason why food is medicine is because anything we put in our mouths has a taste and a post-digestive effect.  Each taste stimulates a different part of the tongue which sends signals to the digestive system to ramp up for ingestion and begin producing the right enzymes to digest the incoming food or beverage.  Furthermore, Ayurveda explains how each taste has a medicine value based on its qualities and elemental properties.  It’s these elemental properties that act on the body in a myriad of ways to create balance, cleansing, healing or even imbalance.

To date, I know of no other culture or medicine that looks at food and tastes so closely.  This is different from the western idea of nutrient and vitamin values.  Nutrients and values are just labels but do not explain why they do what they do to the body.  Ayurveda does.  Of all the years I’ve been studying Ayurveda (over 16 years now) I am still fascinated by the science of food and the six tastes.

I’ve compiled a quick .pdf (Six tastes handout) for you to look at which gives a more detailed description of the six tastes and how they affect the body.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.  Furthermore, if you have more to add, please do.  I am forever a student, willing to contemplate more.

Gift Yourself this Holiday Season

Whether you like it or not it’s the time of giving.  Giving gifts, giving your time to family, shopping, traffic, going to obligatory work functions, holiday parties and giving your immune system an extra test with travel.  Unfortunately, if we’re not careful and give of yourself too much you end up sick, stressed out, overwhelmed or the Scrooge.

Gift Yourself ImageThat’s why I’m dedicating this article to all of you who need permission to gift yourself this holiday season.  Sometimes we just need permission to do the things we know we ought to do.

As a stress reduction specialist (I’ve been using this term more and more since someone told me this is one of my specialties), I find that when people don’t take care of themselves during the year, the holidays become overwhelming, tiring and stressful.  In a time when there is much to celebrate, many people focus on the obligations rather than the attitude of gratitude or truly gifting another from the heart.  Furthermore, when it’s time to receive a gift from someone, people don’t know how to truly appreciate this act because we’re burnt out, feeling unworthy or again, being Scrooge.

There is a quote that I live by, “learn to love yourself before you can truly love another.”   This same psychology can also be used when it comes to gifting.  Learn to gift yourself before you truly give to others.  Easier said than done.  Learning how to gift yourself is learning how to appreciate and find gratitude for your own life and authentic self.  Learning how to gift yourself also teaches you how to receive.  Yes, RECEIVE.  Gifting is an act of moving energy from yourself outward.  When you gift yourself, you practice receiving, or moving energy from the external to the internal.  Receiving is just as important as giving but in a culture that is focused on the external objects to make us happy, many of us have forgotten how to receive with an open heart. I’m encouraging you this holiday season to gift yourself by taking care of yourself and doing things that you find indulgent but are actually very simple.  Watch your thoughts when you decide to gift yourself and notice how you receive.  Also notice how you give.  The holidays are such a beautiful time of the year for celebration and fun, take care of yourself and learn the balance of giving and receiving to truly optimize this special time of the year.

Top ten gifts to give yourself this holiday season:

Breathe! Take 5-10 releasing breathes in the car, in the shower, bathroom stall, really ANYWHERE.  How to: Take a nice deep slow breath in through the nose.  Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds and gather up any emotions or stress.  Then exhale, breathe out, with a sigh or the sound of ‘haaaa.’  Repeat as necessary.  Caution: you can cause lightheaded.  Please do not overdo.  5-10 breaths is plenty!

Mooooove your body.  Remember to move and stretch during your travels.  If you’re driving, during your rest stops walk around the parking lot, do some push ups on a bench or some squats in the parking lot.  Yes, people will look at you but again, by taking care of yourself (and having fun doing so) gives permission for all the other achy travelers to move too.  If you’re flying, remember to flex your legs, ankles and glutes/buttocks regularly.  When you’re waiting in lines try to balance on one leg.  Maybe even jog or speed walk to your next gate, not because you’re about to miss your flight but because you’ll feel better once you get there.

Foot massage.  Did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through your whole body when you massage your feet. Foot reflexology is based on this principle.  How to:  Sit on the floor a comfy chair, cross one of your legs and begin massaging the heck out of your foot, ankle and calf.  Better yet, get a friend or loved one to do it for  you!  If you don’t have a foot or hate feet, keep reading to check out another gift you can give yourself.

Self Oil Massage.  That’s right, oil yourself up.  Use a natural oil like coconut oil, sesame oil (not toasted, it should look golden), olive oil or jojoba oil. gently warm the oil in a double boiler, coffee warmer or on the stove.  Be careful not to burn yourself or overheat the oil.  If the oil begins to smoke, start over.  With your warm, body temperature oil, begin by applying some to the scalp.  Then cover the body making circles at joints and long sweeping motions on limbs and torso.  Let the oil sit for 15-20 minutes.  Enjoy your favorite cup of tea (gift yourself #4) and then take a hot shower without soap to wash the oils off.  This is an ancient healing secret from the East.  It is a therapy to create balance of the body and all the tissues.  If you go to a spa and get this done you’ll be dishing out $150-$350.  Yes, gift yourself!

Hand massage.  Like the foot, did you know there are millions of nerve endings that send signals through the whole body when you massage your hands?!  Massage each hand for 10 minutes.  Better yet, have a friend or loved one massage it for you.  Kids are great at giving hand massages and very healing and intuitive by nature.

Indulge in your FAVORITE cup of tea or coffee.  Not sure about you, but I tend to buy tea in bulk, not a high-end tea but something I know will GET THE JOB DONE.  My husband who is a coffee drinker tends to do the same.  HOWEVER, why not give yourself permission to go out and buy your all time favorite tea or coffee for the holidays?  Sipping on it while you get a foot massage or after you’ve given yourself a full body massage will feel like you’re the Queen or King of the neighborhood.  Which I’m sure you already are 😉

Sleep in as long as you want.  Arrange with your partner, spouse or family to give you one morning where you can sleep in as long as you want.  Some of you already do, so don’t choose this as a gift to yourself.  Others of you, including myself, have pets or kids to take care of.  Sleep is so incredibly important to reducing stress from the body and mind.  When we don’t give ourselves permission to get sleep until we naturally wake up, we are adding more stress to our lives.

Do one thing you LOVE to do.  Novel idea, right?!  In the clinic, I like to give my clients homework assignments between sessions.  The most often “prescribed” homework is asking a client to do something they absolutely LOVE to do but never do anymore.  One lady in New York loved walking around looking at the old architecture and taking photos.  She hadn’t done this in over 10 years even though she walked everywhere and lived on the upper east side, an amazing area for her passion.  Another lady just wanted time to sit with her cat in her lap, turn off all the gadgets and watch the world walk by.  Another man wanted to continue to write on a screen play he began 18 years earlier.  By giving themselves permission, each of these people did what they LOVED!  You should have seen the smiles on their faces during our next session.  TRY IT, that’s why you LOVE IT!

Buy yourself a gift.  In the Business and Money section of the Times this week, there is an article New Holiday Tradition: Buying Yourself a Gift.  While I’m attempting to keep the gift yourself idea focused on health and wellness, I have to admit there is something incredibly satisfying and healing when you buy yourself a gift for no reason.  A REAL GIFT that is, not something for the house, your pet or work.  A gift is something you’d probably never buy for yourself because of the thirty reasons of why you could use something else…for the house, pet or kids.  It doesn’t have to be something huge, lavish or expensive.  Maybe it’s hand lotion, a favorite candle or a hard-cover book.  Imagine that, a real book?!

Write or express your dreams, goals and aspirations for 2013.  This is not the same as a New Year Resolution.  This is about giving yourself permission to dream and dream big.  Not only learn from the past and decide to move forward with all the wisdom you’ve gained but maybe in this process learn something new about yourself.  Attempt to get out of the usual things you dream or think about and go wild.  Questions to ask yourself: If money weren’t an issue, I’d__________.  If I had all the time in the world, I’d_____ or may day would ____________.  When I look back at this time next year, I want to feel __________ or be able to say, I did ______________.  I want to learn about _____ in 2013.  The biggest lessons of life have come from ___________________.  I’ll use this knowledge in 2013 to _____________.

Choose an Attitude of Gratitude.  The holidays are the perfect time to point out who’s glass is half-empty and whose glass if half-full.  Unfortunately, the half-empty mentality is much easier to follow and fall into its unforgiving jaws.  IF however, you are a half-full or overly full mentality type, keep it up this holiday, even around friends and family.  You may get picked on, you may even be asked the most silly questions like why or how can you be so happy,  but more importantly you give others permission to live this way as well.  I can’t think of a better gift…and it’s free!  Remember, even the smallest and most simplest things can turn our world around.

Caution:  If you feel silly gifting yourself, you’re not alone.  More importantly, you’re probably doing it right.  Don’t worry what others think, just have fun.  After all, the holidays are a time for having fun and being silly! 

Asian Medicine Wisdom for Autumn

It’s Autumn which means several things in my world.  Autumn is a wonderful transitional season.  The mornings begin to have a nice crisp in the air once again that just screams to the lungs…Wake up!   And as soon as I take in a deep breath, my body responds with AAAAH!  Oh Autumn, how I love thee.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a.k.a TCM, Autumn is correlated to the element of Metal.  For all you non-TCM geeks, without even having to try to figure out what that means just consider what the qualities of metal are.  Don’t give yourself an aneurysm thinking about it.  Just consider.  Let me get you started.  Metal is ___(fill in adjective here)______________.  Voila!  Now you can begin to relate to the season of Autumn more personally.  Consider how these qualities apply to your own life, your relationships, mental state, habits, or more importantly how you can use these qualities to bring more balance in your life, i.e. cutting things out of your life that no longer serve you or help you to be the best you can be.

Yes, Autumn, as metal, is more sharp or cutting than the playful energy of summer.  Things all around us begin to show their life’s cycle: wilting, withering, changing colors, falling off trees.  Woah woah waoh, not to get you depressed.  This is a natural cycle and part of your own nature of being.  Asian Medicine is all about celebrating the nature of things and since YOU ARE A PART OF nature, this means celebrating YOU!  This is the perfect time to allow what needs to naturally die away, go.  Let go.  The nature of Metal.  AND when we let go, that creates space allowing for the opposite to occur…receptivity or filling.

More TCM geeky stuff that you should know is the metal element is connected with the Lungs and Large Intestine.  The yin and yang organs of receptivity and letting go.  These images and connections become the perfect guidelines for the natural processes in our own life, no?

In Ayurveda, Autumn is associated with the dosha, or imbalances, of Vata.  Vata is represented by the elements of Air and Space just like the Lungs and Large Intestine.  In fact, the house of Vata is the…drum roll please…Large Intestine.  Coincidence?  Never is.  More like Divine connection!  At this time of the year, it is natural for things in our lives to become irregular, mobile, quick, dry, cold, light, and rough.  Not just on a physical level (lungs and large intestine) but at the mental/emotional level as well.  Both TCM and Ayurveda give us guidelines of how to live with the seasons and not allow these qualities to take over too much and create dis-ease or illness.

During the change of the seasons, Vata, the energy of movement, is predominant. It’s important to avoid excesses in all areas of your life at this time.  Breathing exercises and meditation are important to practice every day.  Begin packing a scarf or top-layer with you every time you leave the house, just in case the weather shifts.  When the weather gets windy, protect your neck.  Most importantly, nurture moderation and stress-free living to keep the immune system functioning at its peak performance.

General food guidelines to follow at this time of the year include:
1) Eat foods that are sweet (whole grains, not cookies), sour & salty (rock salt, not potato chips)
2) Limit the intake of spicy, raw, cold, and light foods. i.e. cold salads, sushi, and cold bean salads.
3) Enjoy warm, cooked foods, a variety of proteins, and healthy fats.

Consider, sipping on the following Vata Balancing Tea throughout the day to help make the transition of the seasons easier on the mind and body.

Ingredients:
1C water
3 deep breaths
1 Intention of “Balance”
1/4 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ajwain (available at most local Natural Food store)
sweetener (optional): sucanat, rice syrup

Directions:
Bring water to a boil. Remove from heat and add spices. Cover and steep, or use a coffee/tea press, for 3-5 minutes. Sweeten to taste & serve. Serves 1.

Enjoy with balance and the intention of letting go those things in your life (thoughts, habits, relationships) that no longer serve you while being more receptive, or filling your life with things that DO serve you. This is Autumn! Enjoy.

Aloha & Namaste

To learn more specifically about your personal constitution and what foods, spices, beverages, breathing exercises and physical exercises or yoga asana are best to bring your body and mind into balance, call or e-mail Haunani today to schedule your private 1-to-1 session.